Power of Our People
Sharing Veterans’ Voices
Fayette County columnist told stories of World War II in newspaper and book

Elaine Thomas with World War II veteran Charlie Ripper of La Grange.
IMAGE: Courtesy Elaine Thomas

The Allies on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, they could not know they were being watched by a sailor from Fayette County. Charlie Ripper, a shell man for the 16-inch guns on the USS Colorado, had an eye on the ceremony. “I was on lookout duty,” Ripper said, “and from the lookout tower I could see them sign the papers.”

Ripper and 62 other World War II veterans—men and women—some who remained stateside to support the war effort and others who slogged through muddy battlefields, told their stories to Fayette Electric Cooperative member Elaine Thomas, who included each narrative in her book, Veterans’ Voices and Home Front Memories.

“I have been a regular columnist for the Fayette County Record for more than a decade,” Thomas said. “I was talking to Charlie Ripper and asked him if I could interview him for an article.”

Ripper agreed on the condition that he not be called a hero. “The only heroes are the ones who didn’t come home,” Ripper said.

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Thomas’ stories about Ripper and others in the Fayette County Record drew raves from the community. They led to a special section in the paper and then the book.

Four hundred people turned out for the Veterans’ Voices book signing in November 2018, and 17 veterans and three female civilians whose stories appear in the book were able to accept appreciation from the community for their service. Proceeds from the book, available on Amazon, support a scholarship at Blinn College’s Schulenberg campus.

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